Listen With Others

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Listener No 4622, Kew Knowledge: A Setter’s Blog by Brock

Posted by Listen With Others on 19 Sep 2020

Watching butterflies and birds

Solving Azed 2469 (see Azed Slip 2469), which was a Spoonerisms clue-writing competition puzzle, led me in October 2019 to ask the question “When is Spooner’s anniversary?” as I had in mind that a thematic Listener related to his life might be fun to set. Scribbled title ideas at that point included “Line Manager” (i.e. Professor of Queue Knowledge). My alma mater is New College, Oxford, and I often suffer from unintentional muddles of words and ideas as Spooner did, e.g. asking “Did you put the butter back in the oven when you finished with it?” as well as actual Spoonerisms.

The butterflies strand of this puzzle was also much in my thoughts, as I’d enjoyed taking part in the UK Big Butterfly Count over the summer and had recently installed the iRecord Butterflies app on my phone. I can highly recommend it as an enjoyable and relaxing activity whether in your garden, a park or the countryside. See Our garden seemed to be teeming with insect life that summer, helped by the mix of wild flowers (weeds to some), herbs, plenty of sun with small patches of shade around the trees and shrubs. It has pained me ever since to see so many gardens being paved or gravelled over around our village, as well as mature hedges ripped up; I suspect there is more loss of habitat proportionally than in the Amazon Rainforest. Having many insect visitors over the summer was probably what led to so many birds in the spring, so I have since been enjoying bird watching too, not just the flutter byes.

The puzzle itself came together relatively easily, with the natural steps being:

  • Creating a viable grid with FLUTTER BYES and as many butterflies as possible, mostly from Chambers.
  • Deciding the number of thematic Spoonerism clues I needed to give the Spoonerised question from additional letters in wordplay and tweaking the grid.
  • Regridding again to fit in SPOONER.
  • Regridding one last time to make WASP OONER work rather than just SPOONER. This last step was actually the trickiest from the grid view-point as I’d already got a lot of thematic material to try to work around.
  • Setting the clues, starting with the thematic ones and then all the others.
  • Trimming the clues to keep them concise and as straightforward as possible (an attempt to address two criticisms of some of my clues in the past).

I enjoyed including some thematic clues and several other insects in the grid in addition to the butterflies.

I was very grateful to the editors for purifying my Spoonerism clues especially, many of which were still inaccurate as Spoonerisms, despite my averaging more than a day to set each of these. My original submission title TINY was also changed to KEW KNOWLEDGE for the same reason.


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